Grenada’s Endangered Archives (part 5)

Grenada's Endangered Archives

The newyear begins and we hear that Pranical Technologies and UNESCO, through the Communication & Information Sector, informs us that the IFAP plans to protect historical documentary resources on Grenada.
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Archives damaged by the effects of termites,
Grenada National Library, St. Georges

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The Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) has recently launched an information preservation project in Grenada, which is helping to protect valuable and rare historical documentary resources. The project is also providing useful experiences that can inform actions in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It is one of several initiatives undertaken in the Caribbean during the 2012-2013 biennium with the financial support of UNESCO’s Multi-donor Emergency Fund.

According to Jasmin Garroway, from the National Commission in Anguilla (UNESCO’s newest Associate Member),

the project undertaken in Grenada provides important technical insights that are an inspiration for the members of the National Memory of the World Committee, which is being established“.

Insights into the complex political, social and economic changes that have transformed Grenada over the past 300 years can be found in its national archives. But today, this archival heritage, which managed to survive the military exploits during the colonization of the new World and the more recent Cold-war era, is now threatened by inadequate storage and natural causes.

Hurricane Ivan, which hit the island in 2004, compromised the main library and the national archives. As a result, these collections were dispersed to makeshift emergency storage areas. The limited resources available to the Government, the need to respond to other more urgent human needs, as well as the inadequacy of what was only intended to be temporary storage has seen these precious resources become endangered.

Recently, the Government launched a ‘major effort‘ (sic) aimed at obtaining finances to restore the public library and protect its archives, but even as these plans are being put in place, the ravages of humidity and termites continue their assault on the fragile materials.

Discussions between the IFAP Secretariat and the official Delegation of Grenada during UNESCO’s 37th General Conference helped to identify some immediate interventions that could forestall this degradation. A project was conceived to train government staff and local volunteers in inventorying the archives, relocating them into more favourable locations, protecting them from termites and humidity as well as acquiring equipment to support the digitization of the archives.

N.B. None of the aforementioned consultants of the delegation have been named and ‘training governmental staff and volunteers‘ is a feeble response to the urgency of our plight, and we fear who these ‘information professionals‘ are – still this small response is better than the previous decade of no response.

Joan-Marie Coutain, Secretary-General of the Grenada National Commission, says,

Within the space of a few weeks, our discussions with UNESCO were transformed into a proposal that was then concretely implemented on the ground. We now have young trained Grenadian volunteers working under the guidance of government information professionals and using the equipment acquired for this project to save our documentary treasures.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme also supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.

James Gill's photo.

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